“And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full… And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” ~ Mark 4:37, 40
The well-known account of Jesus calming a storm on the Sea of Galilee provides great insight for exercising faith in difficult situations. We would like to examine one of these lessons: Faith prevails over logic/reason.
In the passage (Mark 4:35-41), a powerful storm comes upon Jesus and His disciples as they sail across the Sea of Galilee. Eventually, the fearsome wind and waves generated by the storm overwhelm the disciples who had desperately been trying to bail water from the boat, and the boat is now on the verge of sinking. The desperate disciples awake Jesus, who, astonishingly, had been sleeping through the whole event. Jesus awakes, stops the storm and then, by asking two intriguing questions, uses the situation to teach them and us about faith.
“Why are ye so fearful?”
The answer to Jesus’ first question, “Why are ye so fearful?”, seems painfully obvious. The disciples had been battling a dreadful storm. They could feel the power of the winds as they strained against its force. They could feel the boat lurching luridly as wave after wave pounded its hull. They had been drenched by the water pouring into the boat and, after a prolonged but ultimately futile fight to keep the water out, the boat was now full and sinking.
By a logical evaluation of the sensory inputs available, they were on the brink of death. This was the reason they were fearful! Indeed, who wouldn’t be fearful in such condition?!?!
But, that was just the point Jesus wanted them and us to see. The reason for their fear was that their assessment of their situation was based on logic, not faith… and that was the problem! When we face difficult circumstances such as the loss of a job (or jobs), or the death of a child, or a terminal disease rational/logical assessment can only produce fear: because all we have is physical information and human logic.
Therefore, Jesus is telling us that the way out of fear is to stop relying on our limited senses and limited thinking. There is more to the storm than we can see or understand. The essence of this principle is captured in the following verse
“Man’s goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way?” ~ Proverbs 20:24
Many things happen in our lives that we will never be able to explain or understand because God is orchestrating the events of our lives “behind the scenes” (e.g., Job 1-2). Moreover, we cannot detect God physically (through our senses) and we cannot comprehend His plans.
“But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” ~ John 4:23-24
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” ~ Isaiah 55:8-9
Therefore, since we cannot rely on our perception of our reasoning we must turn to something else that is more reliable if we are going to be able to remain calm in the midst of turmoil, i.e., to find rest during the storms of life we must rely on God’s knowledge instead of our own.
“How is it that ye have no faith?”
In Jesus’ second question, He points us to the key to remaining tranquil in a tempest, and that key is Faith. The disciples had exercised their senses they knew the situation they were in and they had exercised their reasoning and deduced that they were in imminent danger. BUT, they had yet to exercise their faith.
To be clear, Jesus wasn’t telling them to disregard the sensory information, nor was He telling them not to use their brains. Indeed, it is He who gave them both the ability to gather information and to use it rationally. Faith does not obviate reason; but, as Jesus demonstrated, Faith transcends reason.
The reason is limited by human fallibility/frailty: we can only reason to the limit of our brainpower. But, Faith reaches far beyond human frailty because Faith is of God.
- “…think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” ~ Romans 12:3b
- “But the fruit of the Spirit is… faith” ~ Galatians 5:22
- “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” ~ Ephesians 2:8
- “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…” ~ Hebrews 12:2
But, how does Faith work in a storm? To understand this it is useful to note that at this point of Jesus’ ministry, it is likely that the disciples did not know yet what their ministry would be or even that Jesus would ultimately die on the cross (Mark 8:27-34). Therefore, it would not have been clear to them that God had any plans for them that they should look to beyond that point. Hence, when Jesus pointed to their need to exercise Faith, He wasn’t telling them to hold on to some future prophecy they should have remembered. Rather, Jesus was telling them to look to God.
They had used their knowledge of their present circumstances to deduce, correctly, that they were in danger, but without faith that just leads to fear. Jesus was challenging them, and us, to take what they knew about God and by exercising their faith in Him come to accept His perfect plan in every circumstance and find rest in the raging storm.
While experiencing the power of the wind, they should recall their experiences of the power of God. While being tossed about by the waves, they should remember the guiding hand of God over their lives. As the dark gloom of the storm enveloped them, they should recollect that the love of God enfolds them.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah…
…Be still, and know that I am God
Psalm 46:1-3, 10
They had no guarantee that they would survive the storm, BUT they could be absolutely sure that God controlled the storm and controlled their lives. They could be absolutely sure that as fierce as the storm raged, God’s love for them raged even more fiercely. No storm could ever blow them out of God’s mighty hand. Whether they lived or died, God’s will remains perfect; and, in that, they could find peace instead of fear.